Murray is a third year Bachelor of Laws/ Bachelor of Art (History) student from Brisbane studying at Griffith University. Here’s a snapshot of his justice journey with the Chief Justice, in his own words.
On Wednesday, 20 April, I visited the Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law building in Brisbane. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland, the Honourable Catherine Holmes, welcomed me at her office. We spoke about the role of Chief Justice and its responsibilities. I also spoke with the Chief Justice about her career, and the challenges throughout. I was glad to find her story relatable. It will be a continuing source of inspiration for me as an aspiring lawyer.
Afterwards, I observed a number of criminal proceedings in the Supreme Court, including complex evidence issues, where I saw first-hand how judges arbitrate proceedings.
In the afternoon, I met Bruce, Research Officer at the Court of Appeal. He showed me the process by which a case report is prepared for publication in a law report, and process of selecting decisions for full report. Bruce gave me a view of the integral work carried out inside the courts system, and invaluable insight into the practical skills which underpin it.
The Honourable Catherine Holmes was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland in September 2015. Admitted as a solicitor in 1982, and undertaking various roles in the judiciary over 15 years, her diverse variety of professional and educational experiences have given her a unique perspective towards upholding fairness, integrity, and accessibility in the law.
The role of Chief Justice involves judicial duties in the most serious matters in the jurisdiction of Queensland, as well as managing the affairs of the Court, working with the court registrar, and other internal departments. Her Honour’s work goes beyond the QE II Courts of Law in Brisbane as spokesperson for the Supreme Court, and as a travelling justice, working in the regional Courts across the state. The role of Chief Justice evokes the diversity of experience and knowledge she has gained during her justice journey.
The Chief Justice completed her schooling at Oxley State High School in Brisbane in 1973 and first obtained a Bachelor of Economics at the Australian National University, before completing a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Queensland in 1980. She worked to support herself during her education, taking up waitressing jobs in her early years, and later, a role assisting research in the Psychology Department of the University of Queensland, and as a clerk in the public service. When initially applying for public service work, it was impressed upon her that married women should have tempered expectations of employment. Persevering against outmoded attitudes, she completed her legal training and was admitted as a solicitor in 1982, and as a barrister two years later.
Her Honour began her practicing career in prosecutions, as a solicitor in criminal law, and later as a Crown Prosecutor, balancing her career responsibilities whilst starting her own family. She established herself as a capable courtroom lawyer at the private bar, continuing to take criminal cases, as well as personal injuries, and administrative law. Her Honour took on several cases at the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. She went on to sit as a Part-time Member on the Tribunal for a number years, engaging in difficult concepts involving disability. Leading up to her first judicial appointments, and during the early judicial years she was required to work under pressure in the public eye, whilst engaging in challenging inter-disciplinary issues. During the Forde Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children she worked closely with social-workers, and historians. Her time at the Mental Health Court was an especially interesting part of her judicial career where she enjoyed the challenge provided by complex psychological issues as well as the opportunity to work with experts from the field. Working with people from all walks of life, and a varied range of expertise, complemented her perspective as a woman in the law – developing the sense of fairness which accompanies the value of equality before the law.
Last year marked the centenary of the admission of the first woman as a legal practitioner in Queensland, and first female solicitor in Australia. Agnes McWhinney was a pioneer for women in the legal profession, campaigning for wage equality during her career, and later using her skills in service to the community throughout her life. Chief Justice Catherine Holmes demonstrated the same pioneering spirit throughout her career. Notably, she was a founding member of the Women’s Legal Service in 1984, which was established with the vision of a legal system which was fair and just for women’s legal issues, and complemented advocacy for change with the delivery of legal services to the community. In succeeding despite adversities, and making her own contribution to women’s access to justice, Her Honour has led by example as a role model for women, and people of all backgrounds aspiring to be lawyers.